Latent forms of Plasmodium vivax, called hypnozoites, cause malaria relapses from the liver into the bloodstream and are a major obstacle to malaria eradication. To experimentally assess the impact of a partially protective pre-erythrocytic vaccine on reducing Plasmodium vivax relapses, we developed a liver-humanized mouse model that allows monitoring of relapses directly in the blood. We passively infused these mice with a suboptimal dose of an antibody that targets the circumsporozoite protein prior to challenge with P. vivax sporozoites. Although this regimen did not completely prevent primary infection, antibody-treated mice experienced 62% fewer relapses. The data constitute unprecedented direct experimental evidence that suboptimal efficacy of infection-blocking antibodies, while not completely preventing primary infection, has a pronounced benefit in reducing the number of relapses. These findings suggest that a partially efficacious pre-erythrocytic Plasmodium vivax vaccine can have a disproportionately high impact in positive public health outcomes.
Keywords: Plasmodium vivax; circumsporozoite protein; humanized mouse; liver chimeric mouse; pre-erythrocytic vaccine; relapsing malaria.
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